From landscapes of extraction to creative industries of organic matter & waste

​​Monday, 14th February 2011 at 6pm
Stubbins Room, Harvard Graduate School of Design, 48 Quincy Street, Cambridge, MA 02138

Pablo Rey, Basurama
Manolo Mansylla, Trashpatch
Robin Nagle, anthropologist of material culture (waste)
Scientist doing research in biomaterials (Wyss Institute for Biologically Inspired Engineering/ Materials Research Science and Engineering Center – School of Engineering and Applied Sciences)

Richard Forman
Technology has no limits. Science has no limits. Human creativity and imagination have no limits. The limits are imposed by matter. Raw materials are being extracted from the remotest of geographies and we are beginning to exhaust the last reservoirs of available minerals in order to perpetuate a production system based on disposability and the consumption of wholes, not parts; of large, not small; of new, not old; of multiple, not the one that is needed. In order to extract such minerals, we often deplete forests, along with the cultures that inhabit them, or contaminate river basins. Science and technology can produce brilliant responses to our environmental problems, but unless they take into account the source of the materials they consume, the counter landscapes of extraction, those of waste and slums (people get displaced as we render their land useless through monoculture or extraction), will continue to grow; setting off our good intentions to move towards a more sustainable future.
In the midst of the conundrums of “green development” three activities are acquiring a preeminent role: reinserting waste into the cycles of matter and production; re-using, adapting and renovating existing material culture; and last but not least, computing the economic value of biodiversity, indigenous knowledge and vegetation mantles whose market value cannot currently compete against the minerals that underlie them, even though our access to vital resources like oxygen and water depend on them. Research efforts geared towards developing industries of waste and bio-tectonics should at the very least equate those assigned to developing alternative sources of renewable energy (in some cases, they are one and the same thing).
Because we believe that design disciplines are called to play an important role in reshaping our environments, productions systems, commodities, ways of life and values, we propose to host a dialogue between an anthropologist of waste, a scientist, emerging designers and the design community at the GSD in order to reflect upon the ways in which we can design less wasteful buildings and objects, adapt what we have to new uses and take into consideration the source of the materials we spec as well as their socio-environmental impact. 
Sources:; Rubcn; Juan Fernando Hidalgo;
An initiative of the Loeb Fellowship
Harvard University, Graduate School of Design
Manolo Mansylla
Robin Nagle
Pablo Rey



Wyss Institute for Biologically Inspired Engineering


School of Engineering and Applied Sciences, Harvard University

1 Comments on “From landscapes of extraction to creative industries of organic matter & waste”

  1. Pingback: Weekly update | The power of the network

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